Former U.S. Rep. Cardiss Collins, the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress, died Saturday, Feb. 2, in Washington, D.C. She was 81.
Collins, who served as Congressional Black Caucus chairperson during the 96th Congress, represented the 7th Congressional District for more than two decades prior to her retirement in 1997. During that time, she focused on women's health and welfare issues. She also fought for universal health insurance and Medicare coverage of mammograms.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairperson Marcia L. Fudge released the following statement on Collin's passing:
"During her tenure in the House of Representatives, Cardiss Collins was one of the most outspoken champions and advocates for women and minority communities. Ms. Collins was a leader in making women's health and breast cancer awareness a national priority, and used her voice to call attention and condemn discriminatory acts in all sectors of society.
"As the fourth African American woman to serve in the House and the second African American woman to lead the CBC, Ms. Collins never hesitated to speak on the needs of urban communities. Through her work, she also helped break down barriers for women to pursue and achieve any goal they set out to accomplish.
"Because of her commitment and her courage, I and many other women in this Congress are able to follow in her footsteps and be leaders among our peers. I appreciate and am grateful for the legacy of service Ms. Collins has left behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this very difficult time."